The aim of the project planned for three years is editing, held in the JHI’s Archives, extant documents of Jewish Councils from ghettos and camps in the following towns and cities: Będzin, Bochnia, Biała Podlaska, Białystok, Czarne (Pomorskie Voivedeship), Częstochowa, Drohobycz, Falenica, Jasło, Kamieńsk, Kielce, Kobierzyn, Końskie, Kaunas (Wiliampol), Kraków, Lublin, Lviv, Lakhva, Łęczyca, Międzyrzec Podlaski, Modliborzyce, Nowy Sącz, Opatów, Pabianice, Pinsk, Piotrków, Przemyśl, Radom, Rawa-Ruska, Rzeszów, Siedlce, Staszów, Tarnów, Theresienstadt (Terezin), Ujście Jezuickie, Warsaw, Vilnius, Włoszczowa, Wola Wereszczyńska, Zwierzyniec.
During the liquidation of the ghettos, the Germans systematically destroyed all archival documentation in order to cover up the tracks of committed crimes. Therefore, the collection is only partial. It was especially important to liquidate archival materials gathered by the Jewish Councils. Individuals and groups of people made attempts in various ghettos, often long before the complete holocaust of a particular Jewish community, to save documentation at risk and to collect materials concerning German crimes. Already since the fall of 1940, in the Warsaw Ghetto, documentation works were carried out by Emanuel Ringelblum’s team — Oneg Shabbat. Similar undertakings, often on a smaller scale, took place in other centers, for example in Białystok, Łódź, Piotrków, Radomsko. In the Łódź Ghetto, even head of Council of Elders Chaim Rumkowski got involved in documentation works. At his office, he created a special archive, where he assembled official and private files documenting life of Jewish quarter and its residents.
On one hand, in terms of the subject matter, the collection of extant files of Jewish Councils can be somehow treated as a whole regarding fate of Jewish people in this part of Europe, in particular on Polish territories. On the other hand, we can see clear differences in it: files related to various geographical areas, cities, councils, organizations and people.
In terms of geography, dominant in the collection are materials concerning ghettos located on the territories of the Second Republic of Poland, but there are a few exceptions. There are preserved single documents from Kaunas, Terezin. The biggest fonds include: Collection of materials for the history of Jewish people in Łódź 1939–1944, which includes pretty large fragments of files of the Ghetto Administration (Gettoverwaltung) and Head of Council of Elders (Der Älteste der Juden in Getto Litzmannstadt) in the Łódź ghetto. Considerably smaller are collections of documents concerning the Warsaw and Kraków ghettos, but with a precious private documentation, especially from Kraków. Attention should also be paid to materials from smaller centers such as files of the Jewish Council from Staszów, in particular numerous lists of names of the Sanitary Commission. Very valuable are books with census of the ghetto inhabitants. Jewish Council’s cash book also survived from this centre.